Imagine if Life Online needed marketing like a video game getting released to the public? That we needed to be convinced of this experience’s merit? Now I’m sure you can agree that Life Online needn’t be sold or marketed, albeit a number of us feel at times that it isn’t worth living all the way through.
Back in November 2009, me and my family were informed that my Memaw had passed away due to brain cancer. At the time my Mother was simply heartbroken. It was like any other day in the home, I can’t quite remember what I was doing at the time when suddenly my Mother screamed in horror at the top of her lungs. It shook me to my core to hear her scream and bolt down the stairs to inform us all of what had transpired.
I felt a void inside my chest, like the time Piccolo shot his Special Beam Cannon into Goku and Raditz’ chest from DBZ episode 5. You realize that something that you held very dear to you has “left” you. I couldn’t help but punch my fists into a wall in frustration while my siblings and Uncle were bawling. Memaw was a very loved member of our family, one who sacrificed so much for us, and oh boy was her life truly a rollercoaster.
My Mother became orphaned soon after for my Grandfather passed away when I was 3. I can’t imagine the pain and loneliness that Mother felt at the time, knowing now what she’s been through as a child and having both of her parents go to the next life. I hate to see my Mother depressed hence I got depressed as well. So depressed that I attempted suicide two months later.
Middle school sucked balls, my Memaw passed away, Mother was depressed, life hit a very low note for me. I attempted to take my life away by stabbing myself in the chest with a kitchen knife. However I couldn’t find the courage (to put it more aptly cowardice) to end my life then and there. It felt like the end of the world for that little caterpillar at the time, that aching caterpillar that couldn’t take life’s ills any longer. I never truly got over my depression after that, it wasn’t until I moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 2011.
Does Life Online need to be marketed or sold to convince potential buyers of its value? If so then it’d take quite a skillful salesperson to sell anyone this experience. With this society and the illusion of scarcity permeating like the stench of a dead carcass, imagine if someone sold us this experience with strings attached. We’ve all heard the saying that the best things in life aren’t free, but I’d like to counter that argument. What are the best things in life? What must we give in order to reap Life Online’s bounties? Water was abundant until someone came along and sold it to us. Time was abundant until someone came along and sold it to us. Heck we live in a world where corporations are privatizing the one gift that was always abundant, water. Where I’m getting at is this, how much do we have to give of our entire being until Life Online becomes “worth it”? How much must we give to this system in particular before it becomes “worth it”?
I make a lot of comparisons between video games and this massive complex existence called life, but the difference between the two is that we had no choice over the latter. We’re simply (or complexly) born into the world from a drop of semen and overtime become a human being. Born into a world of good people dying, institutions violating the rights of everyday people, needless wars, poverty, occultation, scientific progress being hindered, the list can go on and on. Had I been someone else and have seen Life Online sitting on a shelf at my local video game store, I’d passionately scoff at it like Jim Sterling. Heck I’d find it in the bargain bin with all the other mediocre video game releases. Why would anyone want to play this game? It’s terrible, too difficult, not worth investing in, sucks, doesn’t give me gratification.
Life Online is hard, very hard. Stress seems to be integral to everyday life, even being a cause of death. Are we doing something wrong? If so, how can we live better? Do you ever play a video game and think to yourself if your playing right? I mean you know you are, you’ve completed a lot of challenges, beaten many bosses, watched that sweet CGI cutscene at the end of almost every Square Enix game. But you can’t shake the feeling that perhaps you’re not playing right at all, as in you can be playing so much better. I’m not saying life has to be approached or beaten like a typical game, hence why this whole philosophy of mine can only go so far. It’s quite ironic how most of our troubles on this planet is a result of our own creation, it’s like Wile E. Coyote having one of his contraptions explode in his face.
After all our stumbling and foils we come back to the ever prevailing question,”what is the meaning of all this?” For a creation that chose free will over total obedience (16:93), we sure are a dramatic lot. Does a flower ever asks the questions that humans do? How about a bear? A cat? What about the trees? Even though these creations don’t possess free will, they inevitably are in service of their Creator, or Nature as someone else would like to go by. Life Online is an experience that seemingly has no apparent plot or storyline. Could it be that we know inside what the meaning of life is? Or we could not, but there’s much to discover and explore for there to be no meaning. The Holy Scriptures can guide us, science can guide us, our own hearts and minds can guide us, but there’s one thing that I see.
The essence of role-playing is filling the shoes of a character and making meaningful choices as that character. We’ve come to recognize RPGs by their leveling systems. Progression is like the essence of video game RPGs. Progression can also be seen in nature. A seed is placed into the soil to eventually bloom into a beautiful flower. Or it could bloom into a tree that stands ever so tall into the heavens and provides clean air for Earth’s creatures or bears succulent fruit for our taking. It looks so easy to be a tree or a butterfly but imagine for a moment what it’s like for them. A caterpillar has to face many predators within her environment before she can spread her wings, she may not ever get there. But when she does, its a marvel to behold. Now take us, human beings who possess free will. We’re just like the caterpillar except our progression rests on the choices that we make on this planet.
Life Online is a web of interactions, of giving and taking. A fruit seed needs nutrients and water before it can bear fruit and give back. We are the same, we need care and support to grow into fine people to give back to our communities and the world at large. What matters most isn’t how smart one may be but what they give back with what they have. What if that was a selling point? That in this game you can leave a lasting impact and leave the world better upon leaving it? What if we came to a turning point where players desired much more from the games that they play? More than just EXP boosts and loot, but something much more valuable? To play a game where you’re actions could make someone breathe easier? A game where you feel gratified about solving a crisis faced by a village? A game where you gave your ear to someone who needed it most in a time of grief? The rewards would go way beyond gear, EXP, women, and how much space you have in your inventory. The reward would be knowing that you lived your life as best as you could, that you left the world better than before.
“To laugh often and love much.
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
-Often attributed to Elisabeth-Anne Anderson Stanley
Had Memaw’s life not moved me, I’d still not be convinced. Had Mother’s life not moved me, I’d still not be convinced. Had my special friend Yarden never moved me, I’d still not be convinced. What more does a human being need to get off their behind and live? That upon the time they approach the door of death they proudly stride through it proclaiming,”I have lived!”? Life Online is an experience that needs no marketing, it never needed it. Because its merits, its beauties, are of unspeakable marvel. It is no doubt difficult but nevertheless The Creator doesn’t want us to lose hope (1:1-1:7). We’re not perfect, we make mistakes and fall time and time again, but what makes us special is that we come bouncing back.
In closing, what if perhaps The Master Game Designer’s message to the world is reinforced through game development? Where in the future with full-dive VR, games will begin to have similar interactions like Life Online? A video game culture that spans beyond mere EXP, loot, quests, and leaderboards to engage players? Games that cater to the spiritual, psychological, and social needs of players? Games would no longer be called games but something else, because what we’d get out of these experiences wouldn’t be done justice with our current terminology. Games where players could see the quality of the world that they play in based on the systemic interaction of every element. But that’s for another day.